All’s fair in love and cheesecake.

Which wonders of the food world make you salivate at the mere thought of them?  For me, it’s a good pizza, a slice of bougatsa, Japanese curry, Cajun shrimp, souvlaki or egg and chips- probably all served on separate plates, but not necessarily.

For my favourite little food guinea pig (N), it’s likely that white chocolate cheesecake will make the list.  Alongside blondies, white chocolate cheesecake is one of my few creations that provokes such an excited reaction from her.  I always have white chocolate and cream cheese on hand in case there’s trouble at the ranch.

Perhaps there are wives or husbands across the world right now, preparing a favourite meal for their spouse: a tasty cushion to soften the blow of some bad news, an apology for dessert.  Perhaps there are families gathered around their go-to dish for particular events.  Does anyone else have an “In case of emergency eat this” dish?

I’m happy to report that I’ve not needed to break the glass on the emergency white chocolate for a long time.  In fact, it’s been over a year since the cake has made an appearance (and even then, it was to brighten up a rainy weekend).  Time then to share with you that most precious of recipes: the recipe that puts smiles on me and my dearest no matter what.  Her smile for the cheesecake, mine for her smile.  “For goodness sake!  He’s supposed to be writing about  food!  What’s is he playing at?”  Relax, here’s the oh-so easy recipe.  Enjoy.

White chocolate cheesecake

300g cream cheese

200g white chocolate

175g digestive biscuits

100g caster sugar

120g butter (melted)

60ml double cream

1 tspoon cinnamon

1 tspoon vanilla extract

Begin by crushing the biscuits and stirring in the melted butter and cinnamon.  Press the biscuits into the base of an eight inch round cake tin and place in the fridge for at least thirty minutes.

Next, use an electric whisk to combine all of the sugar, vanilla, cream cheese and cream in a bowl.  Melt the white chocolate gently over a pan of hot water and blend into the cream cheese mixture.

Tip the mixture onto the biscuit base and spread evenly using a plastic spatula.  Place the cake in the fridge for an hour or more to make it firm and easier to cut.  You can now decorate it in any way you wish, but I’ll be honest, I never get as far as that stage.


Do blondes have more fun?

Being married to a greedy chap with a food obsession is frustrating at times, I’m sure.  There’s moaning when meals are dull, there’s a constant stream of food-related chat, large amounts of hard-earned pennies are spent on what seem to be random or unnecessary ingredients and every now and again, a meal is served that the hip kids would label as an “epic fail”.

Don’t get the violins out just yet.  N is a big fan of white chocolate and has the odd day where she completely lucks out.  There are actually two days when this happens.  One is white chocolate cheesecake day.  The other, is blondie day.  Today, it was definitely a blondie day.

Blondies are an alternative to brownies and while I don’t wish to give the impression that I would ever get tired of eating brownies, I do want to promote some thinking outside of that rich, chocolatey box.  I first came across this recipe a few years ago when I was going through what can only be described as a baking frenzy.  Having lived in Hong Kong for a couple of years without an oven, it was a total joy to be back in a kitchen that had more than a microwave and a wok burner.  The baking that followed is almost a blur to me now, but one thing has remained a part of our household since then.  My blondie recipe.  It’s so easy to make that I could burst out laughing just thinking about it.  It requires only two things of you.  The first is that you like white chocolate.  The second is that you like peanut butter.

Blondies (adapted from Rachel Allen)

200g white chocolate (chopped into little chunks)

200g light brown sugar

150g peanut butter

125g plain flour

100g butter

1 egg

1 tspoon baking powder

1 tspoon vanilla extract

If you’re gonna bother making something that relies heavily on two ingredients, it’s worth making sure that those ingredients are well represented.  I’ve adapted this recipe so that every piece and every bite is packed full of fun.  Let’s just say that I’ve cranked up the volume.  For me, there’s no such thing as too sweet.  I used crunchy peanut butter because it gives the blondies extra texture, but the recipe works fine with smooth.

Cream the peanut butter and butter together in a bowl.  In another bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla and egg.  Add this to the peanut butter mixture and stir.  Finally add the flour and baking powder.  It’s a good idea to use your hands to squeeze everything together and form a dough.  When you’ve got a dough, you can mix in the white chocolate.  My mum hates white chocolate, so at this point she would add something else.  Come to think of it, I don’t think she likes peanut butter either.  Hmmm… anyway, once you have a ball of stickiness, you’re ready to transfer it to a baking tray.

Don’t be alarmed.  The dough is not the sort that you can roll out and work with.  The best thing to do is to line a little tray with baking paper and then press the dough onto it.  I begin by putting the dough in the middle and using my palms to flatten and push the dough to the edges.  I use a tray with one inch sides because the blondies will rise during baking.  Upon finishing this stage of the recipe, I guarantee you’ll be full of doubt, but fear not.  Into the middle shelf of the oven at 160 degrees Celsius for about twenty minutes and you’re laughing.

Just golden, but not brown.

The blondies will puff up and turn ever so slightly golden.  Don’t allow them to brown.  The blondies will still be very soft when you take them out.  The hardest part is waiting for them to cool.  If you try to lift them out (and I have), they’ll break up.  If you try to cut them (and I have), they’ll be a mush.  If you prod them with your finger (and I have), well hey, it’s your finger, do what you like.  Once they are completely cool, they will have a wonderful soft, chewy texture and will hold their shape after being cut into little squares.  If your loved ones like white chocolate as much as my wife, you’ll earn major brownie points- or should that be blondie points?  Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Salty and sweet?

It’s frustrating if you find yourself wishing to buy particular products that are unavailable because of high demand or worse still, because they don’t exist.  I’ve found the latter to be almost unbearable and being a resourceful young man, I often resolve the situation by making things myself.

A few years ago, Nestle brought out chocolate covered pretzels in the UK.  They were a flop, but they won my undying love.  Salty and sweet at the same time, they had the same qualities that drew me to peanut butter (another food that seems to polarize opinion).  Needless to say, the packets of salty awesomeness began to dwindle on local shelves and it wasn’t long before I was forced to take matters into my own greedy hands.

I find that these chocolate covered pretzels last only a matter of hours because they are very easy to munch on.  Today I dunked some in melted white chocolate (because it’s what was in the cupboard), but I adore dark chocolate and would sooner use that to coat the pretzels.  I used giant pretzels and laid them out on baking paper, but the normal sized pretzels are great too.  You can throw a load into a bowl of melted chocolate and gently fold them into the silky sweet fun!  Great for sharing?  No!  I can’t think of anything worse!

A half dunk looks cool.